January 2004

Grant Results

SUMMARY

The Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition conducted eight focus groups to assess community health workers' knowledge of breastfeeding and lactation management and to learn how they perceived the value of using technology in their work.

From January 2002 through December 2002, the coalition collaborated with the Urban Institute, the African-American Breastfeeding Alliance and the International Lactation Association on the project.

In March 2002, project staff conducted eight focus groups with 74 community health workers in Atlanta, Baltimore and Chicago.

The project is the first phase of a broader initiative at the Coalition to promote breastfeeding in African-American communities.

Key Findings

  • Virtually all focus group participants were familiar with cellular phones, pagers and computers and used them either at home or at work.
  • Some focus group participants used the Internet to find community resources for their clients, including information on housing, employment and other service providers.
  • Nearly all participants promoted breastfeeding as part of their jobs.

Key Recommendations

  • Provide community health workers with additional training and up-to-date information on breastfeeding.
  • Provide culturally — and age-appropriate educational materials that community health workers can use with their clients.
  • Enhance access to pagers or cellular phones to facilitate communication between community health workers and mothers, hospitals, clinics and providers.

Funding
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported this project with a grant of $50,000 between January 2002 and December 2002.

 See Grant Detail & Contact Information
 Back to the Table of Contents


THE PROBLEM

The Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition represents 200 organizations working to improve the health of mothers, babies and families. Despite abundant evidence that breastfeeding is linked to positive health outcomes, fewer than half of African-American mothers breastfeed their babies. With appropriate support, community health workers, who work closely with local residents to promote healthy lifestyles and to facilitate access to health care services, may be able to help bolster breastfeeding rates.

 Back to the Table of Contents


THE PROJECT

In March 2002, project staff conducted eight focus groups with 74 community health workers in Atlanta, Baltimore and Chicago. The goal was to assess how community health workers think about using technology in their jobs, to gauge their current knowledge of breastfeeding and lactation management and to identify opportunities to support their efforts to promote breastfeeding. The Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition subcontracted with the Urban Institute to facilitate the focus groups and to develop a report on the results.

 Back to the Table of Contents


FINDINGS

Among the key findings of the focus groups, as reported in the Urban Institute's "Community Health Workers' Views on Technology and the Promotion of Breastfeeding: Findings from Focus Groups in Three Cities":

  • Virtually all focus group participants were familiar with cellular phones, pagers and computers and used them either at home or at work, but the availability of technology on the job varied widely. While they expressed a desire to have employer-provided phones and pagers, they did not indicate that finding innovative ways to use technology on the job was a key priority.
  • Some focus group participants used the Internet to find community resources for their clients, including information on housing, employment and other service providers.
  • Nearly all participants promoted breastfeeding as part of their jobs, although the extent to which they encouraged it varied greatly. Some viewed breastfeeding as a personal choice and did not push it if the mother indicated that she was not interested.
  • Many participants had received some training on breastfeeding and were knowledgeable about its benefits. However, the training sessions they attended rarely focused solely on breastfeeding and did not generally address cultural issues.

Recommendations

Urban Institute staff reported, "While some of the needs identified by community health workers could be addressed through technology, others may be better met through non-technological means" and emphasized the value of face-to-face contact between community health workers and families. Drawing on the focus group discussions, staff made the following recommendations in the report:

  • Provide community health workers with additional training and up-to-date information on breastfeeding.
  • Provide culturally — and age-appropriate educational materials that community health workers can use with their clients.
  • Enhance access to pagers or cellular phones to facilitate communication between community health workers and mothers, hospitals, clinics and providers.
  • Develop media campaigns that promote the concept that breastfeeding is acceptable and that increase public awareness of the importance of breastfeeding.
  • Provide ongoing education and support for parents, including the increased use of visual aids and peer counselors.
  • Involve fathers, grandparents and other family members in breastfeeding education activities and use males to promote breastfeeding. Focus group participants noted that they often encounter resistance to breastfeeding from male partners.
  • Several focus group participants said they would like to use computers to obtain resource information for their clients.

Communications

The Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition disseminated the focus group report to its own members and to other project partners. The coalition also disseminated the Executive Summary of the report through various listservs that address maternal and child health issues and has made it available on its Web site. Findings were presented at the national conferences of the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition and the National Community Health Workers/Promoters. See the Bibliography.

 Back to the Table of Contents


AFTER THE GRANT

Building on its assessment, the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition is seeking funding to develop programs that will increase the rate and duration of breastfeeding in African-American communities. Staff hope to adapt a breastfeeding program now used to train nurses and doctors in Massachusetts for broader use among community health workers.

 Back to the Table of Contents


GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION

Project

Determining the Best Use of Technology to Educate African-American Women About Breastfeeding

Grantee

Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition Incorporated (Washington,  DC)

  • Amount: $ 50,000
    Dates: January 2002 to December 2002
    ID#:  044302

Contact

Laquitta Bowers
(703) 836-6110
lbowers@hmhb.org

Web Site

http://www.hmhb.org

 Back to the Table of Contents


BIBLIOGRAPHY

(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)

Reports

Koralek R and Van Ness A. Community Health Workers' Views on Technology and the Promotion of Breastfeeding: Findings from Focus Groups in Three Cities. Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute, 2002.

 Back to the Table of Contents


Report prepared by: Susan G. Parker
Reviewed by: Karyn Feiden
Reviewed by: Marian Bass
Program Officer: Lewis G. Sandy

Most Requested